Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Hume on Curiosity

Walter Brand.

Curiosity, the last of the passions Hume discusses in Book Two of his Treatise of Human Nature is only partially understood without understanding the conflict of causal judgment in Book One and the conflict of moral judgment in Book Three. An attempt is made to resolve the contradiction Hume notes between the pursuit of truth, the mental effort required to discover a truth, and the importance or utility value of that truth. Why is the object of the hunt important to us when the effort involved in the pursuit is the primary source of the pleasure of curiosity? Likewise, why is “virtue in rags is still virtue” the basis of moral evaluation while we place much importance on the consequences of actions? These conflicts are explained by appealing to Hume’s account of two (often conflicting) sorts of “general rules” for causal judgment in Book One of the Treatise.


Walter Brand  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Social Science
City University of New York

  • Curiosity
  • David Hume
  • Treatise of Human Nature
  • General Rules

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)